ISSUE | MUSIC IN SCHOOLS

Joyful sounds

Nearly two years ago, I urged the School Reform Commission to save the in-school music program ("A rousing send-off," March 3). On Monday, hundreds of student musicians spoke in a powerful voice in their Kimmel Center performance about the value of music education.

My friend Don Liuzzi has guided the all-city program for 10 years, and it is stunning to see the level of musicianship. If the School District can produce students like these, then there is indeed a bright future.

For anyone who loves music, the All-Philadelphia High School Music Festival concert has earned the right to be on your list of must-see events. And never again should the all-city program be put in jeopardy.

|Joseph Hochreiter Jr., president, Youth Orchestra of Bucks County, Yardley

ISSUE | NEXT MAYOR

Real-world agenda

Not only do Phil Goldsmith and Farah Jimenez call it like it is, but they offer real-time, tough, and viable solutions ("Poverty: The war that never ends," March 1). The next mayor needs this kind of prodding to face the real issues and jump-start solutions.

|Ned Dunham, Flourtown, edunham@kleinbard.com

ISSUE | OBAMACARE

Alternative ills

What U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.) proposes as an alternative is exactly what we had pre-Obamacare: no coverage for those with preexisting conditions, no coverage for college students dropped from their parents' plans, and no guarantee of affordability for the poor and near-poor ("Option ready after ruling on health care," March 4). And I challenge Pitts' assertion that the Affordable Care Act is unpopular. He should ask those who have health care now, and who couldn't afford it in the past or could not obtain coverage due to their health.

|Claire Donohue, Philadelphia

It's working

The Affordable Care Act is saving lives and reducing costs for millions, but it seems Republicans in Congress don't care. All they want to do is destroy everything good our government does.

|K. B. Kofoed, Drexel Hill

ISSUE | TAXI SERVICE

Hail, good drivers, but the rest should park it

All the suggestions regarding taxis sound reasonable, but nothing is being said about improving standards for drivers ("Better Phila. taxicabs urged," Feb. 28). If regulators held drivers to higher standards, there would be fewer unpleasant experiences, including: drivers with body odor; drivers dressed in filthy, smelly clothes; and front seats and floors packed with computers, groceries, small refrigerators, piles of clothing, and the like.

I'm glad to say I have had many wonderful, kind, and professional drivers. In other cases, a beautiful, new taxi with low mileage, but operated by a smelly, rude, unprofessional driver, is not the answer.

|Barbara Levy, Philadelphia

ISSUE | PUBLIC PENSIONS

Montco still lacking as role model

As chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, Josh Shapiro urges Pennsylvania to follow his county's lead on pensions ("Pa., follow Montco's lead on pensions," March 1). In fact, the commonwealth is doing just that and has been for years.

Neither the state nor Montgomery County has fully funded pension obligations lately. For Montgomery County, it has been since I left office as a commissioner in 2008. The Shapiro administration has deposited $3.5 million into the pension fund over the last two years - when the annual required contribution has exceeded $10 million. With the stock market advancing to record highs, Montgomery County has left millions on the table by shorting the pension fund.

How you invest - passively or aggressively - is up for discussion. But fully funding the county's pension obligation is a mandate not to be ignored. The consequences are evident at the commonwealth level and will make themselves evident at the county level.

|Thomas Jay Ellis, Elkins Park

ISSUE | IRAN NUKES

Arms-control experts: We've got this

Benjamin Netanyahu's fear-mongering about Iran is a bluff that arms-control experts dismiss outright ("Netanyahu tells Congress: 'This is a bad deal,' " March 4).

With Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a physicist and former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, involved in the final, most technical stage of negotiations with Iran - and Robert Einhorn, an arms-control expert at the Brookings Institution and former State Department adviser, among others, available to explain that, with an unprecedented verification system, the International Atomic Energy Agency will remain in a better position to detect any movement toward nuclear weapons - there is no reason to give Netanyahu any more attention that he deserves.

|Tammy Murphy, executive director, Project for Nuclear Awareness, Philadelphia, tammy@pnausa.org

Back to the bad old days of belligerence

With two years left in the Obama presidency, the hawk party is in control of Congress again ("Netanyahu tells Congress: 'This is a bad deal,' " March 4). They're warming up for war by stoking fear.

Right now, we have a rational actor in the Oval Office. God help us if we elect another Bush or his like, and let these bellicose advisers back near the levers of power. Pay attention: It doesn't cost anything to be armed with history when they come trolling for our vote.

|Roy Lehman, Woolwich Township